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This blog was inspired by a prompt given at a university that I was going to transfer to after ICE announced earlier this month that international students whose classes are only online won't be allowed back to the U.S. Since ICE agreed to change the decision and allow international students to return to the U.S., I didn't submit this essay, but I also didn't regret writing it.
As I'm entering the last year of my master's degree, the prompt made me rethink of all the steps I took to get here and of all the people who were by my side, who believed in me and inspired me to go on. If you're one of them, THANK YOU. To my school ACS, thank you!
This is for you, to motivate you when you're feeling down...
In first grade, my life changed. I realized that I can now take a pencil and write down whatever I want. So I did. Sometimes I wrote short fantasy stories, and other times I followed my mom around the house and reported what she is was doing. I had decided I was going to be a writer.
When I reached 8th grade at my Greek school, my goal was more specific: I wanted to study creative writing. After expressing my desire to my parents, they informed me that there is no university in our country that has a creative writing program, only a literature one.
Disappointed, I searched the internet for creative writing schools. That’s when I came across Emory University, the best creative writing program in the U.S. Reading at the requirements, I realized that if I stayed at the Greek school that I was currently attending, I stood no chance of getting into Emory.
So, I did a second internet search: “American schools in Athens.” ACS, the American Community Schools of Athens, came up, a school mainly for international students whose parents are diplomats in Greece. To attend the school, you had to pass an English entry exam and an interview.
As a thirteen-year-old who had just made a discovery, I walked from my room to the living room and told my parents that for my high school years, I want to go to ACS. They stared at me in surprise while explaining to me that it’s the most expensive school in Athens and that all subjects would be taught in English. I told them that I was a good student and that I wanted to at least try.
The ACS admissions officer interviewed me, and I sat down to write the exam, which I barely passed. The school told my parents that they would accept me only if, for my first semester, I enrolled in the ESL class and took the lowest level of classes they offered.
Disappointed, I realized I had to make a decision. Do I leave my Greek school where I was an honors student at the top of my class with a chance to go to an excellent Greek University but give up on my dream to study creative writing? Or do I go to ACS where I would be at the bottom of my class in an English-speaking environment where in math class, for example, I didn’t even know basic words in English (like subtraction, division, etc. that I only knew in Greek)? But then, if somehow, I managed to rise up in my four years of high school at ACS, I would have a chance to make it to Emory’s creative writing program and fulfill my dream.
My parents said they would support any decision I made but reminded me that if I failed at ACS, then I wouldn’t have a chance to get admitted to a Greek University unless I repeated high school.
At first, it appeared like the biggest dilemma, a life-changing decision at the age of thirteen. I wouldn’t just have to let go of everything I had learned so far, including ancient Greek, my favorite subject in Greek school, but I would also have to leave behind all my friends. Even though I was a kid who had been bullied a lot in Greek school, and I was very insecure, I never lost my determination. Struggling to make a decision that would carve my path for the future academically and professionally, I sat on my bed and pictured myself older, holding my own book.
I left my room, walked to the living room, and told my parents: “I’m going to ACS.” It was because of this decision that I learned how to lift myself up when I’m at the bottom of the hierarchy. That lesson changed who I was; since then, I never missed an opportunity to grow because of fear of failing.